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Scots to pay more in taxes amid ‘savage cuts’ to public services

Murdo Fraser of the Scottish Tories, told MSPs that the spending plans had 'no friends outside this chamber'
Murdo Fraser of the Scottish Tories, told MSPs that the spending plans had 'no friends outside this chamber' - SST/Alamy

Scots will pay more taxes in exchange for “savage cuts” to public services after nationalist budget plans were passed at Holyrood, critics have warned.

Proposals to raise income tax from April were approved by SNP and Green MSPs on Tuesday, despite opposition that united businesses with anti-poverty campaigners.

Murdo Fraser, finance spokesman for the Scottish Tories, told MSPs that the spending plans had “no friends outside this chamber, no interest group telling us to support it”.

Instead, he said they would deliver “real pain for communities” who would see cuts to services at the same time as tax bills increased.

He added: “All the measures that could help with economic growth are being cut in this budget.

“This is a government that has no interest whatsoever in promoting economic growth, creating jobs or supporting household incomes.”

‘Nothing to stimulate economy’

Liz Smith, the finance spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “This SNP budget does nothing to stimulate jobs, investment, economic growth or encourage aspiration, but instead offers higher taxes and reduced public services.

“The SNP’s mismanagement means that Scots will face savage cuts while paying more. Yet while the NHS, education, housing, enterprise, agriculture and tourism are being hit, the SNP can still find money for its divisive independence ministry.”

From April anyone earning more than £28,850 will pay more in income tax than if they lived in England – a total of 1.5 million Scots.

While those earning below the threshold will pay less, the saving is at most just £23 per year.

In contrast, a new “advanced” 45p tax rate, to be applied to income between £75,000 and £125,140, will mean someone on a salary of £100,000 will pay £3,346 more in income tax than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK.

From April, Scotland will have six tax rates and bands, double the amount in the rest of the UK.

SNP ministers insisted their plans were “progressive” and would protect public services.

However, opposition MSPs highlighted cuts in areas such as NHS building projects, which have all been shelved, housing, tourism and agriculture, as well as a lack of measures to stimulate economic growth.

The Scottish Tories said that had growth in Scotland not lagged behind the rest of the UK since 2017, there would have been £6 billion more to spend in the devolved budget of almost £60 billion.

The plans include a council tax freeze, although Argyll and Bute council has defied ministers by voting to increase bills by 10 per cent. Other authorities are also considering increases.

Prof Stephen Sinclair, the chairman of the Scottish Government’s own poverty and inequality commission, warned the budget could “move Scotland further from where we need to be to reduce poverty”.

‘Deeply disappointing’

Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland, called the plans “deeply disappointing and disjointed” and said that they risk “bringing to a screeching halt – and if anything, throwing into reverse – action to tackle poverty”.

Shona Robison, the Deputy First Minister, insisted that the budget “stays true to our progressive values: investing in services, growing our economy, protecting vulnerable people and tackling the climate emergency”.